Northview — When she was in eighth grade, Genevieve Sobczak wrote a paper for English class on how fashions have changed over the decades.
That project informed what she worked on this year, as one of about a dozen or so students in the semester-long Fashion Design class at Northview High School. Now a junior, Genevieve focused on London in the 1960s. You know: knee-high go-go boots and mini-dresses. The Beatles. Youth-centered, geometric designs.
“I wanted to show how most of our (U.S. fashion) designs came from the UK,” Genevieve said.
The students’ assignment: to research a historical period in any part of the world and create a storyboard that includes highlights of their findings, as well as sketches of clothing they would design inspired by that era.
To prepare, the class viewed a biographical film about four-time Academy Award-winning costume designer Ruth E. Carter. Teacher Nathan Kukla said the hope was to show them how Carter gained inspiration from her research.
“When I look at (the finished storyboards), I can tell who made them by their choice of colors, the backgrounds and the emphasis (or lack) on writing,” said Kukla, who recently was named Michigan art educator of the year.
“I just love how their personal aesthetic and individuality comes out.”
Sophomore Adilyn Spencer focused on 1940s Germany, and how war influenced — and often restricted, due to shortage of materials — the way women dressed. Nevaeh Plaster chose to examine how religion, culture and Western fashion impacted how traditional saris in 1920s India were draped, colored and detailed.
Junior Isa Starr researched 2010s fashions for Black American males, which were heavily impacted by hip-hop music and sports figures.
An aspiring entrepreneur and a varsity wrestler, Isa is already working on a design for a better shoe for that sport.
“They’re not really that supportive, and they’re not very comfortable either,” he said. “And I know I can make them more affordable.”
And therein lies the gold in this and others of Kukla’s art projects: “That’s what I’ve really been trying to stress with students,” he said, “that when you find out what really interests you as you research, that’s where the learning really is.”